Restoring lost glory of Premamati’s tomb

U.S. Ambassador to India, Kenneth I. Juster (centre) with US Consul General from Hyderabad Joel Reifman and Aga Khan Trust for Culture project director Ratish Nanda at the refurbished tombs of Taramati and Premamati at Qutb Shahi tombs on Tuesday.

U.S. Ambassador to India, Kenneth I. Juster (centre) with US Consul General from Hyderabad Joel Reifman and Aga Khan Trust for Culture project director Ratish Nanda at the refurbished tombs of Taramati and Premamati at Qutb Shahi tombs on Tuesday.   | Photo Credit: Nagara Gopal

Dome of Qutb Shahi-era danseuse’s tomb rid of grime, musty odour

On Tuesday, as visitors walked past the freshly laid lawn and stepped inside the dome of Premamati, the morning sunlight bounced off the floor and lit up the insides. The accumulated grime over the years was gone, it was no longer dark; also gone was the musty damp odour. Only a few roosting pigeons bobbed about from the ledges above the sarcophagus on which the lines about Premamati were etched in Nastaliq, a style of Arabic calligraphy.

From eternity Premamati was a rose of paradise. A rose of Paradise was from eternity, Premamati”.

According to historians, Premamati was a companion of Abdullah Qutb Shah, the seventh king of the Qutb Shahi dynasty who ruled between 1626 and 1672. She was fabled to be a danseuse and was powerful enough to build a mosque just outside the Golconda fort.

Unfinished mosque

The stone mosque remains unfinished as Premamati died in 1662 when Abdullah Qutb Shah was at the height of his power.

“Much of it is original lime stucco work. Wherever it was damaged, we restored. The dark lines etched in the recesses of the mortar set off against the white just got a clean-up,” says Ratish Nanda of Aga Khan Trust for Culture (AKTC) about the conservation effort on the two tombs.

Women who held sway

The tombs of two women who retained their identities were honoured with a space inside the royal necropolis of the dynasty. Photographs taken before the conservation work began show domes that are covered with moss and big peepal trees.

“The trees led to seepage damaging the inside of the dome. The plinth was in a dilapidated condition. Stones in the plinth were missing both the vertical as well as edging stones. Even the finial of Taramati’s dome was tilting as the wooden support inside it had rotted,” informed Prashant Banerjee of AKTC. A freshly laid walking path matching the old contours takes visitors to the tombs.

Interestingly, while Premamati’s dome is 1.5 times bigger that of Taramati’s, both of them look equal due to the different sizes of the finials. Taramati, whose sarcophagus has no inscription, is fabled to be a companion of Sultan Muhammad Qutb Shah. A dancing pavilion built in her honour outside the Golconda Fort still exists in the location and has been turned into a convention centre. “At places, the concrete plaster was two inches thick. On the ceiling, it was three to four inches thick. The slopes have also been corrected and now there will be no ingress or water stagnation for at least a century,” said Mr. Banerjee.

‘Delighted’ at efforts

US Ambassador to India, Kenneth Juster visited the Qutb Shahi tombs complex to mark the completion of year-long conservation efforts by the AKTC on the twin mausoleums of Taramati and Premamati. The conservation effort was aided by the US under its Ambassadors Fund for Cultural Preservation.

“This is my third visit to the Qutb Shahi tombs. It looks so beautiful today. It has progressed tremendously. I am delighted,” he said, posing against the backdrop of the twin mausoleums of the two courtesans of Qutb Shahi rulers. “It is so important to the US to help restore the cultural heritage of India. We had three ambassadors fund grants over the years,” said Mr. Juster. He was referring to the grant that helped excavation to the north of Qutb Shahi Hammam and another that led to conservation of Maha Laqa Bai Chanda’s tomb near Moula Ali.

“We got a grant of $1,00,000 (about ₹70 lakh) and the two mausoleums have been restored using the fund,” said Mr. Nanda.

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Printable version | May 31, 2020 8:26:01 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Hyderabad/restoring-lost-glory-of-premamatis-tomb/article31034575.ece

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